So You Deserve “Slower” and “Lesser” Education?

Scalia: Some black students don't belong at elite colleges

Scalia: Some black students don’t belong at elite colleges

While I understand the need to play devil’s advocate during ruling, I have to think this exploration was rooted in at least some part of you that agreed with your line of questioning. I’m going to assume the words you’ve taken the time to impute into debate are at least similar to your own Justice Scalia.

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well…

That said, are we to believe that African American students do not even deserve the opportunity to succeed or fail at the best colleges? They probably won’t do well so why try…? They probably won’t do well so why would they attempt to enroll…? Is that the message that a Supreme Court justice uses his unencumbered literary prowess and historical briefs to purvey? Why try?

Surely you know my people better than that by now. We perform… at every level. And that they are somehow not suited to compete is a farce. I’m sorry but pursuing happiness happens to be one of the cornerstones of this nation. To “go after” what inspires you is – believed to be – what makes this country what it is. A justice would have to understand that, in his/her position, those words send staggering ripples throughout communities currently and diligently seeking better academic opportunities.

Gregory Garre Attorney for University of Texas @ Austin

Gregory Garre Attorney for University of Texas @ Austin

If you look at the academic performance of holistic minority admits vs. top 10% admits, over time, they fair better.

 

I can’t imagine spending my evening writing to a Supreme Court justice about the dangers of the sheer notion of calculative separation of a segment of students from the most valuable educations available. I can’t fathom lecturing an Associate Justice of the highest court on the idiocy of merely suggesting African American students have no place at faster-paced schools. It’s even more appalling that any current justice sits on a bench with a Yale education “Black”.

I can’t. I’m too busy trying to make heads or tales of this 2nd amendment confusion in the wake of San Bernardino than to be rehashing Brown v. Board with yo ass. I have neither the time nor the inclination to, again, make the case that separate but equal was not a good fit for a developed nation.

And before the scholarly break out the transcripts, I’m not sure I understand why one wouldn’t see the court’s time better spent lobbying for better education opportunities BEFORE high school so affirmative action would evolve past moot to obsolete.

For those wondering what Justice Thomas' thoughts are on the subject... in his defense... he was sleep during the proceedings.

The calls for Affirmative Action are still debatable but not dead. What I wholly agree with is Affirmative PROaction where there are smaller, targeted mandates that ensure an equal playing field in secondary schools and before. Thereby empowering all students with the same access to learning tools well before higher education is right around the corner. Don’t wait for special provisions to have to be applied. This almost guarantees conflict. Readiness is the key, not just access. Ensure adequate and equal public schooling is available for ALL students well before the time of higher education… well before the point of contention. That makes all Americans competitive for far more than just undergrad – how about the rest of the world is learning at a faster pace than our kids.

This notion that replacing hope for a better future with acquiescing to what someone else thinks you can do is unacceptable. If there are any potential college students reading this, take your asses to The Common Application and apply to a top school right now. Like RIGHT NOW.

And why are we discussing the students that have already been granted admission, who I personally know, have succeeded? Your ridiculous case is an obvious exercise of entitlement; not whether African American students can do the job once admitted.

What say you?

13 Tough Interview Questions for 2016 Presidential Candidates

White House - We're Hiring

White House – We’re Hiring

So tell me, why the hell should I hire you? The job description is pretty straight forward. You’ll be responsible for establishing a country’s goals and strategies and presiding over the execution of that vision. The president is the commander-in-chief of the military and responsible for insuring that the laws passed by Congress are executed and enforced as written.

Given those responsibilities, I’ve put together some revealing questions for choosing a president.

  1. What does continuing our counter-terrorism strategy look like in 2017?
  2. You will undoubtedly command our military as president. How do you choose the words to comfort the families of fallen troops?
  3. What would you tell 2016 college graduates about the opportunities ahead?
  4. What is the purpose of the constitution in your administration?
  5. Where should our Social Security dollars be going?
  6. Other than keeping America safe, what are your first 100 days of priorities?
  7. Speaking of keeping America safe, how do you ensure Americans are safe in their own communities?
  8. As an American, what are your thoughts on the current president?
  9. Is the United States education platform suited for the future?
  10. Who are your cabinet picks? Particularly, Vice President & Secretary of State?
  11. How did you choose your Chief of Staff?
  12. If a Supreme Court position becomes available, who would you have in mind to fill it?
  13. Are we on the right track with healthcare?

Depending on each candidates answers the followups could be all over the place. But I think these questions lay a foundation for their philosophies about running the country.

What say you?

The Pa$tor’s Finances, What the Church Isn’t Doing & You

Pa$tor, Pastor's Wife, Deacon, Church Members

Pa$tor, Pastor’s Wife, Deacon, Church Members

If the congregation is giving to a well-run church, the pastor AND the church’s bills will be taken care of. And if this pastor has money to pull up to the scene with the ceilin’ missin’ then hey… C’est la vie, right?

Quite a few mega churches I know of are buying land, subsidizing housing, building schools, launching neighborhood watch programs and God knows what else. I’ve been to several in D/FW alone that do it big in their respective neighborhoods.

I was asked a question around whether or not a church and its pastor (or leadership) could or should raise the echelon of an entire neighborhood. Either answer has its own degree of controversy. One the one hand, shouldn’t a church and its god be powerful enough to move mountains – and a few blocks? On the other hand, should the material success of a community be compared to the spiritual prowess? There are debate-worthy points on both sides. It’s definitely a socioeconomic conversation I’d love to have.

For now, we’ll simply examine a community as a living organism that needs to learn to survive on its own. That means clergy, schools, parents, tax payers, voters, home-owners ALL need to be on the same page as far as advancing their area. Without all those pieces firing on all cylinders an area simply won’t have all the ingredients needed for success. I’m thinking it just be the church.

Faith tends to have a couple meanings in the context referred to when discussing churches’ faith-based giving initiatives. There is simply believing in something and then there is aspiring to achieve it. The difference is big and the ladder involves  the rallying of resources to get things done. The former – hope. There is room for both. I know I love to have hope on my sidelines cheering on the achievers. Even the achievers have to have hope. Some folk want to get in the game and some want to be in the presence of greatness. As I grow older I’ve found that I’m largely okay with both.

But for a discussion on achieving progress, responsible faith involves work – the work of a living breathing community. When we have hope and faith we can make major moves. When we don’t – typically nothing happens.

I wouldn’t get caught up in the cartoony/satirical/handkerchief “faith”. That’s old hat. There’s another group of folk that have faith and aspire to achieve great things. Those folk typically aren’t sitting in churches with ignorant teachers. Those folk are in churches that move mountains. Those folk are sitting in churches with amazing pastors and leadership staffs. And, yes, they sometimes drive a Benz.

So when it comes to pastors making more money than their congregation I can’t say that it concerns me whole lot.  Typically, and I mean typically, the pastor is one of the most educated. Why wouldn’t it be the case that a pastor has amassed a great deal of education and resources along the way. And wouldn’t it then be the case the they might just be more well off? Education, of any kind, typically merits more earnings. Typically, the pastor leads leaders, trains a flock and sharpens swords. I would be willing to give those assignments a pay raise. I guess it’s all in how once values the work pastors do.

The Congregation

Although a congregation full of educated people usually means they’ll be EXCITED about doing MOST of the community’s work OUTSIDE the church – instead of depending on any one organization for answers.

The passa’s Rolls Royce is keeping the rest of the church from solving community issues.

Got it. But I disrespectfully disagree. I think it is the strength of the communities themselves that ensure they thrive. I have even seen, on too many occasions, churches pulling the weight of a community – with no help.

If you’re secondary argument is that churches “shouldn’t need man’s help”, I disagree. To quote any scripture here might get me into trouble but I’ll say this: your god will put resources and people and circumstances in your life that you can turn into opportunities. Man is here to help.

If I had to stand on 1 side of any collective argument about the effectiveness and impact of churches I would have to side with the affirmative.

I’ve seen it – and you know you have too.

Even small churches do some awesome things. Haven’t you seen  it where smaller churches raise funds for members with cancer, or sponsor kids’ trips out of country, or provide after school care? I know I have.

Smaller churches seem to do the most work. It’s just concentrated in there small areas. Big churches probably have a way worse ratio of members who actually do things to help out the community.

I would chock that up to bystander apathy at mega churches. Sometimes they can get so big that people forget to do their part or that their part even matters still. They think others have already stepped up. It happens at small churches too but I would definitely say the bigdogs suffer more.

It’s also why I believe some of the larger churches initiatives are so grand – then individuals don’t have to care. Now you just show up, pay tithes (hopefully) and then you get to watch the 5-minute short film on the big screen the [insert cause] the church helped last week. Mission: Accomplished, right?

An effective church, not unlike effective government, should only have to go so far. Then the free liberties and collective goodness of the church should take over outside the walls of the church itself. However, your god should go with you everywhere – especially outside the church.

I think there is more work being done by God than all religious institutions combined. And my work I mean BIG things. You just have to want to be in tune with what those works actually are and you’ll be open to them.

It’s definitely an interesting argument to challenge why ISSUES and GOD can exist at the same time. But I’ll leave the Theodicy conversations for the zealots.

Is There Any Hope Left for the Trajectory of Young African Americans in America?

This question was recently posed and I thought I’d take a closer look. The data might look bleak but do you think the future looks bright for our great nation’s youth? The answer is yes. We are the newest, racial experiment in existence… These are growing pains. It is true there is a statistical “cleansing period” taking place but I see a resurgence on the way. Our grand kids are who will reap the benefits.

Educational attainment of blacks or African Americans in the labor force, 25 to 64 years, March 1970 and March 2008

Educational attainment of blacks or African Americans in the labor force, 25 to 64 years, March 1970 and March 2008

The African Americans of the 60s were taught by a generation of people grew up with education being unattainable… Resolve is important. The Civil Rights generation blew their load and either rested on their generation’s laurels or faded under fatigue. They were our grandparents.

What we’re seeing now is a product of the cancer of “free-doom” that America provides and the freedom to be mediocre. There was at one point no option to be mediocre – we rose to that challenge. All we need now is a clean example of a generation of mediocrity and exceptionalism for the next generation to see and attempt to duplicate. That’s a couple of generations away.

So Adolphus, right now is the cleansing, but you see hope in a couple generations? Like darkness before the dawn, kinda? I just want to make sure I understand it right.

Mine is an aggregated, macro assertion… But since “blacks” are so new and unique it’s a bit difficult to trend off of data alone. Ours is a very strange experiment (without a hypothesis) unlike any I’ve ever seen:

Brought from a country that was rich in culture and achievement…
to a country that hated us…
that we were forced to build…
that we couldn’t escape from…
that still hated us until like yesterday…

I would say there is room for assertions in a scenario that skewed. And while not bright in terms of ‘easy’ – certainly bright in terms of opportunity for improvement.

As far a trajectory… our short-run trend appears bleak but we could either continue to decline and dissolve into an ape-ish mongoloid culture which I’m sure some would not surprise some… OR we could hit a floor of intolerance right around the time the term “Minority” is swapped with “Majority” and bounce out of this slump. That is my hope anyway.

If you’re looking at a downward trend, it’s lowest point would be considered a floor. You knew that. However, if there was no lowest point and a decline continued forever, that would essentially make us ineligible for recovery.

I’m saying that the floor would occur around 2025 or so… So then does it level out or does it reverse exponentially? I think exponentially IF the trend of minority prejudice & discrimination is reduced dramatically. Which would probably only happen when the number of minorities and majorities neutralize… causing a rubberband snap.

A floor of intolerance.

I think 2050 was the latest census data for when the minority literally becomes majority. Between now and then there are many political and social provisions to be considered. Injecting politics for a second… The GOP has to either change it’s tune or continue to lose presidencies… 2016 will be a different type of election. Either Hillary wins or a centrist Conservative wins.

Either way that means more minority programs – education reform being the easiest to shake a stick at. That means more attention to these issues and over the next 2 terms more progress demanded. That takes us into the mid-2020s.

I often think “Where is the new CRM?”. With yesterday’s CRM we knew who the enemy was. Our opponent was clear.

How responsible and mature a culture do we have to be to recognize that the NEW opponent is ourselves?

21st Century Education in Florida: A Plan Without A Plan

It never ceases to amaze me of the strategic use of propaganda used by various governmental agencies to avoid the real issues hidden within their policies and statutes. The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) has released its Educational Strategic Plan for 2012-2018. The FLDOE website page (FLDOE.org) containing information pertaining to its Strategic Plan gives viewers a link to an article posted on cavalierdaily.com entitled “A race towards better education: There is nothing discriminatory about Florida’s new educational reform program.”

Florida Sets Race Based Achievement Goals

Florida Sets Race Based Achievement Goals

The title alone begs this question, “Why is the FLDOE having to state the fact that their educational reform plan is NOT discriminatory and using an opinion post from an editor at the University of Virginia to support that ‘fact’?” The controversy stems from a recent Florida Board of Education change making the benchmarks for student achievement different based on race. Here’s an excerpt from the article the FLDOE posted on its site to defend their plan:

The program has received much criticism by those who say that expecting different levels of performance from students of different races is sending a poor message. Yet the negative responses and press that the program has received has slightly detracted from its long term goals. Granted, at a superficial first glance the program may seem condescending toward some minorities. Looking at its ultimate plans, though, one can see that the program does not necessarily deserve such disapproving reactions.

 

 

People who do not fully understand the program may be upset by it. And such people would have valid points if only the program’s short term goals are considered. According to the program, 90 percent of Asian students will hopefully be reading at grade level by 2018. On the other hand, only 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students are expected to be reading at grade level by then. If those statistics were the extent of the program, critics would be much more vindicated. Their current assertion that all students should be held to the same standards is completely appropriate. Expecting less from blacks or Hispanics than from Asians would indeed be demeaning to those races, as it implies that they have a lower capacity for intellectual success. But paying attention to solely the 2018 goals would be realizing only half of the state’s agenda.

What are the long term goals of this plan you ask? Let me reference the opinion article used by the FLDOE. “If this new educational reform is successful, all students will have grade-level reading and math skills by 2023.”

That’s the big goal?! You simply pushed back the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) goal of 100% proficiency by all students in reading and math from 2014 to 2023. In essence, the NCLB goal was extended 9 years. Where’s the strategy for this strategic plan? It appears that the Florida Board of Education decided to focus on the racial demographic subgroup data. The FLDOE defends this strategic use of data in the article stating, “Expecting students of every race to reach grade-level proficiency at an equal rate would be to ignore the current statistics regarding academic achievement by race.” The academic achievement statistics by race display a frightening gap in student learning. Current grade level reading percentages in Florida show Asian students at 76 percent, White students at 69 percent, Hispanic students at 53 percent, and Black students at 38 percent.

With this gap so pronounced and disturbing, the article used by the FLDOE follows up by proclaiming, “it would be unrealistic to expect each demographic to achieve reading proficiency at the same time.” I simply cannot ignore the elephant in the room here! If the state believes it is unrealistic to expect each demographic group to achieve reading proficiency at the same time, then how can the ultimate goal be that all students (includes all races) be at 100% reading and math proficiency by 2023?! Will the lower performing races magically catch up and close the gap because the deadline has been extended? That cannot be the plan. There must be a strategic plan; after all, this is the Strategic Plan! The opinion article used as propaganda by the FLDOE goes on to state, “Only by clearly pointing out the differences across races can a concrete plan be formulated.” Wait? Am I reading this correctly? There is no plan yet? Only by using racial data can a concrete plan be created? This next excerpt from the article, I must prepare you for… CONTRIDICTION COMING SOON!

True, it was perhaps not necessary to place students into groups by race. Florida could have instead grouped students together by levels of reading, math or test performances and focused on clusters that showed similarly low proficiency levels. The fact that they chose to group by race, though, does not mean that people should now look at particular races as being more inept at school.

In my best John Stewart voice, “Then why did they use race?” According to the article, “Using ethnicities to plan academic improvements is simply a way to group students while formulating a plan.” We know the 2023 goal of the Strategic Plan. We know the data used to show the need for the Strategic Plan. We know that there is not yet a specific plan. The shocker is that one of the closing statements of the article used by the FLDOE states, “Different approaches will not be taken for different races, and all students will receive the help that they individually need.” I am currently in my 10th year of public education in the state of Florida, and I know for a fact that differentiated data is used to help develop differentiated instruction.

As a practitioner in the Florida public education system, I have some pointed questions:

  1. Why did the FLDOE decide to use racial demographic data to show the learning gap when other demographic data is available?
  2. Why did the FLDOE choose to use an article on their Strategic Plan website in the Learn More section that clearly disfigures their Strategic Plan starting with the title?
  3. Why did the FLDOE release a Strategic Plan without actually having a plan?
  4. If what has been done so far has exhibited such a gap between the races in student achievement, why would the FLDOE not use a different approach for different races?

Let me be clear, my problem is not the use of racial data. My problem is the lack of a plan that will effectively attack the racial demographic statistics. I also take issue with the setting of differentiated goals based on race that must be reached by the same deadline without a different approach in place for the lower performing races. It is time for Florida to take a political step back and start using common sense when it comes to educating our young people. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have caused uproars throughout the state level educational systems all over the United States because of their panacea like approaches to educational reform. This FLDOE Strategic Plan attempts to use differentiated data; however, it lacks a differentiated plan of attack. My experience in school reform has been the common sense approach of asking these simple questions:

  1. Where does the data show that my students are not proficiently performing?
  2. What educational strategies will best fit to increase student achievement for my students?
  3. How can I make sure that all of my teachers become experts at those strategies?
  4. How will the use of those strategies be monitored with fidelity?

This system has not failed me yet. With the help of my team, we were able to increase the reading scores of our high school lower quartile students by 33% in one year. Increasing from 34% to 67% proficiency! We also increased the overall reading proficiency of 9th and 10th grade students by 19% in that same year. This was accomplished at a bottom 5% high school in the state of Florida. Common sense and a student centered approach will always work.

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